April in Paris

My mother turned 70 this year, and her birthday wish was a visit to Paris, which has long been on her bucket list. My siblings and I were happy to oblige, and we planned our trip for April 3 – 7. My mother, my sisters, and I have all traveled together before, and we’ve even done Europe together (you can read about our adventures in Italy here), but this trip was really special. The milestone birthday was occasion  enough, but we were also celebrating the fact that my mom could even handle a trip like this, after undergoing knee and back surgeries in recent years, and that my youngest sister could fully participate in all of the walking, etc. after a 100+ pound weight loss. I think we all felt giddy and light, and Paris was the perfect backdrop!

If you just want to check out the photos, they can be found here, in a Facebook album. And if you’re interested in what we did while we were there (and what we ate!), read on:

We arrived on a Friday morning, and I had a driver pick us up at the airport and bring us to our hotel to check in. We were sharing two connecting rooms in the Relais du Louvre, which is an adorable little hotel in the 1st Arrondissement, just steps from the Louvre. The rooms were authentically Parisian (read: cozy) but perfectly fine for our purposes, and the location was ideal. They welcomed us with a bottle of champagne for the birthday girl, and we headed out for a quick lunch and a stroll along the Seine to get to our pre-scheduled visit to the Eiffel Tower. Because this was high on my mom’s list, we had paid extra for a skip-the-line tour that included admission to the top floor of the tower — awesome views, and a great orientation to the city. Afterwards, we had an early dinner at a cute neighborhood bistro, and then we crashed.

Eiffel Tower

Saturday morning was gorgeous and sunny and the early birds ran out for croissants and coffee to enjoy back at the hotel. We took the bus to Montmartre and walked up to Sacre Coeur to admire the view over the city. We happened to catch the morning that the parish children were celebrating their First Communion, and we got to see all the French families dressed up and celebrating. Afterwards, we took the funicular back down (much better than walking!) and took the Metro over to the Marais District to wander around and have some lunch (Croque Monsieurs for everyone!) We walked off some calories with a stroll over to Isle St Louis so I could show them “my” cute little hotel that I had stayed in last time around (Hotel St Louis en L’Isle) and we rewarded ourselves with a stop at the original Berthillon ice cream shop. We made it back to the hotel for a quick nap, and then headed out to dinner at Les Fines Gueules , a charming little restaurant in the 1st arrondissement.

Classic lunch

Sunday was cloudy and cooler (in the 60’s) but we decided to eat breakfast outside anyway…and were rewarded with front row seats to the Paris Marathon! The runners passed right in front of our table, and we cheered them on over our pain chocolat 🙂   Afterwards, we walked to Isle de la Cite to tour St. Chapelle and attend Mass at Notre Dame (not to be missed!)  That afternoon we continued over to the Left Bank and explored a little bit of the 5th and 6th arrondissements on our way to the Musee d’Orsay. This beautiful former train station, now a museum of Impressionist art, was offering free admission that day, so the line was long, but it was more than worth the wait. Our dinner that evening (the best one of our trip) was at the Boucherie Rouliere in St Germain des Pres. A charming French waiter serving escargots, great wine, perfectly-cooked salmon, and steak. Tres magnifique! On our walk back to the hotel, we watched the nightly light show on the Eiffel Tower. Truly a perfect day 🙂

Notre dame

Monday, our last day in Paris, was again warm and sunny (about 70 degrees) and we made the most of it. We strolled through the courtyard of the Louvre, and the nearby Tuileries Gardens, then shopped our way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. From there, we hopped in a cab over to the Latin Quarter for a spin through the Pantheon, lunch at a cafe (quiche, salade nicoise, and French onion soup) and a two-hour walking tour led by “Paris Walks“. We learned all about the medieval history of that section of Paris, and explored nooks and crannies we never would have found on our own. After one last stop for some wine at a sidewalk cafe, we called it a day. That night we had an early dinner at a nearby restaurant (Taverne de l’Arbre Sec) and then packed our bags for home 🙁

Louvre courtyard

If it sounds like all we did was eat, that’s somewhat true. But that’s Paris! We also packed a lot of sightseeing into four days, and there are whole sections of the city that we missed, but I think Paris, like a fine bottle of wine, is best enjoyed in small “sips”. I am sure that I’ll be back again!

drinking wine on a barrel in Bellagio

Bellagio wine bar

Just right in Jamaica

Girls’ getaways come in all shapes and sizes, from a simple spa weekend to a whirlwind trip to Paris. Today’s trip report is from an all-inclusive “escape” that was JUST the right fit for three friends in need of some tropical R&R.

Hi Ann!

Thank you, so much, for all your help in planning our Jamaican escape. We really appreciated all your ideas and research beforehand, and we ended up in a great spot!

Here’s some basic info, in case you need it…

– Jamaica was a perfect location for a girls getaway. We wanted tropical, and also wanted to feel like we were going somewhere with its own culture / style… not an Americanized resort community. Jamaica was beautiful, and the people were so kind and fun — really helped to showcase the true feel of the island. Hilton Rose Hall was a great property — clean, beautiful, fun, and great service.

Montego Bay was a great choice for us because we wanted to be near the airport. However, I think if I went back and had the time, I would go to Negril, mostly for the beaches. The beach at our resort was a rather small, and it was completely within the resort. This is understandable and great for safety, but it is nice to have a bigger beach that you can walk along, which is what I think Negril has to offer. We still had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed the beach!

– Beaches / pools at the hotel:

– Main beach, a bit small and water a bit cloudy, but nice. They do offer kayaking and catamaran rides here for free, which was fun aslo.

– Adult beach – a little alcove next to the golf course that is great for a quiet day. It’s not easy to swim here – too rocky, but the beach is fantastic for just realaxing and so pretty.

– Main pool is a nice place to layout with a view of the ocean.

– Loved, loved the lazy river. There were a ton of families, but it was still really nice for us to just float around and chat in.

Hotel food was good. It was mostly your basic resort food, but on the higher end and all pretty good. There are 3 restaurants, all very nice and very tasty – Italian was our favorite. Great spot. There is an afternoon snack cart that serves great jerk chicken and Jamaican beef patties – yum!

Hotel was clean and enjoyable to be at. Always a lot going on, good energy. Service was fantastic – every single worker we encountered went over and above to make our stay pleasant. There was a lot of entertainment at the hotel. Not so much stuff we were into, but I could see it being a great property for families. There were a lot of families there and they all seemed to really enjoy it.

We only left the property one day. We did a full day tour with the Cool Runnings group. It included a bus to Ocho Rios, nice lunch, hike up Dunn’s Fall Waterfalls, and then snorkeling and an hour and a half or so on a catamaran party boat. Great day — definitely recommend the group. One note though… climbing the waterfalls is not for the faint of heart. There is a staircase next to it, if you just want to walk up along it, but climbing the actual falls was quite intense. A lot of people cut out halfway up. We’re all pretty active, and we had to cut out for part of it and then come back on. I’m only mentioning this in such detail because the Jamaicans really don’t tell you that when you are there. We were shocked at how hard it was, and were also shocked at how many older people and kids were climbing it… many of whom looked absolutely terrified and had to get help getting down. The Jamaican staff there were not so helpful — it was mostly other tourists helping each other down. But, it was a beautiful site and we had a nice time. The boat was great as well. It’s a long bus ride to get there, but personally, I sort of like that as you get to see other parts of the country.

We had a fantastic trip! All 3 of us really just needed to chill out and relax and it was perfect for that. I think the hotel is a little more geared toward families than couples or groups of friends, but that said.. we had a great time and it was just what we needed for this trip. Keep the property in mind though if you are looking for a Jamaican family trip.

Thank you so much for all your help!

Anne Marie

Girls’ Getaway

This past weekend was my annual “Girls’ Weekend” getaway with my mother and my two sisters, and we had a great time in Montauk (in The Hamptons, at the tip of Long Island).

Montauk #2

For me, getting there was half the fun, as it included three ferry rides and a scenic drive along some country roads. Total travel time was five hours each way, but a good portion of that was spent on a car ferry across Long Island Sound — so relaxing! I was able to sit on deck and read instead of fighting traffic.

We stayed at the Montauk Manor — a grand tudor mansion (turned condo resort) on a hilltop overlooking the water, but we also walked through another resort that I absolutely loved. The Montauk Yacht Club is a recently-renovated full-service resort with a marina, a small beach, indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a spa, and more. This is where I want to stay next time! Preferably in one of their beachfront bungalows with private deck, built-in sunbed, and canvas curtains billowing in the breeze.

As you would expect, we spent most of our time window shopping, sitting by the pool, and eating some good meals. The highlight was our Saturday night dinner at Harvest on Fort Pond.  A chilled glass (or two) of Pinot Grigio…family-style dishes of seafood to share….lots of girl talk…and a picture-perfect sunset over the water.  We even watched some deer swim across the pond while the fish splashed right in front of our window. Ahhh!

Montauk sunset

The only question is, where should we go next year?

Girls just want to have fun!

My mom and my two sisters are some of my favorite travel companions!


We’ve certainly enjoyed vacations with the whole family (husbands, kids, etc.), and we’ve done some great one-on-one trips (mom and I went to Mexico last year, my sister Megan and I cruised to Bermuda, and mom and Kate went to Ireland together) but the most memorable trips have been our annual Girls’ Weekends.

We’ve been doing this since 1998, when my kids were babies and my younger sisters were still in college and law school, and it’s an annual tradition that none of us would ever give up. With the notable exception of our eight-day “weekend” in Italy in 2007, the trips have all been two- or three-day road trips in and around the northeast.

We’ve shopped the outlets in New Hampshire and Maine, hiked in the Catskills, antiqued in New Hope (Pennsylvania), lounged at the spa in Newport, hit the casino at Mohegan Sun, and taken in a Broadway show in NYC. Really, though, it’s not the destination that makes the trip — it’s the fact that we take time away from jobs/husbands/kids and reconnect with one another for some girl time.


So what’s next for us? I don’t know. We’ve talked about going to Montauk this spring/summer, since we haven’t done the Hamptons yet. And I’d love to do a weekend cruise out of NY (since my mom has never tried cruising). The other new wrinkle is that my soon-to-be 14-year-old daughter has been asking when she gets to start coming along.

So what do you think?  Where should we go next….should we let my daughter tag along….and where would you love to go with your girlfriends?

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)